Getting Back to the Point

(c) Kathiann M. Kowalski

Power Tower: Image copyright held by Kathiann M. Kowalski

“Get to the Point: Cedar Point.”

This was a 1990s ad slogan for Cedar Point Amusement Park–site of some great fun times over the years with our family. Yesterday my husband and I got back to the Point after an absence of some seven or eight years. We had a great time visiting with friends. But there were a few unwelcome surprises.

For starters, some of the old standby rides are gone.

White Water Landing was an early water ride that poured a stream of water into the boat at the top of a hill before sending you down with a splash. When my kids were younger, they’d sometimes hide under the boat’s hull to escape getting wet. Now the Maverick roller coaster takes up the ride’s space in Frontierland. My husband tried riding Snake River Falls instead, but gave up when it became clear that the wait would be more than an hour in 90-degree weather. Had he gotten on, he would have been totally drenched. It’s physically impossible to ride Snake River Falls and not get soaked to the skin.

Demon Drop is gone too, dismantled after a 27-year run and reassembled at Dorney Park. I can’t say I loved the feeling of being strapped in and pushed off a cliff. But the ride made for a great sidebar in one of my early Odyssey articles about microgravity. The ride’s space is now part of the snaking, sprawling queue for the Gatekeeper roller coaster.

Changes in the ride line-up are one thing. Times change, and you want new rides to come along. Cedar Point is on a peninsula, so there’s only so much land available.

Besides, engineering advances can make for some spectacular rides. Just compare the Millennium Force’s smooth swift ride to the shakiness of the Blue Streak. Alas, being on the verge of heat exhaustion made us pass on the 90-minute wait for the Millennium Force. We did get on the Blue Streak without any wait—though the seats seem much narrower than they did 20 years ago.

Changes in the queue system are much harder to accept. Now there’s a “fast lane” for most popular rides. If you’re willing to pay about twice the regular admission rate, you can get a wristband along with your entry ticket. That lets you bypass lines on about 20 popular rides. On the one hand, that’s good for folks willing to shell out lots of money and good for company coffers. It’s not so good if you’ve paid a mere $45 or $55 for a regular admission ticket and have to wait extra long while others get to go ahead—even on the bumper cars.

Even the opening of Cedar Point’s day has changed. Years ago, we’d get there just before the park opened at 10, listen to the national anthem over the loudspeakers, and then race like crazy to whatever ride the kids wanted to try first. Now there’s early admission for anyone staying at park resorts, and extremely long lines for the plebes who drove out for the day. And no, the national anthem didn’t play.

I realize much of this is part of living in a capitalistic society. And I suppose from the park’s point of view the alternative might be raising prices across the board. At least this way the people who are willing and able to pay top dollar pay the most.

On the other hand, it’s sad that families have to pay about twice as much if they want a good shot at getting on all the popular rides in one day. Now the best alternative seems to be going on a chilly weekday in early May or maybe playing hooky on the last Wednesday or Thursday of August once Ohio schools are back in session.

Besides, Cedar Point’s mantra was always to have orderly queues with no line-jumping. You couldn’t even leave the line for a drink or have someone save a space for you without the risk of being ejected from the park. Now the current system encourages line-jumping—for a price!

Don’t get me wrong. My husband and I had a great day. But sometimes progress isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Get the point?

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